In his book, Rebel Ideas, Matthew Syed, outlines the need to have diverse teams. They bring varied perspectives, including and maybe, particularly when they come from very different walks of life — like an oncologist learning from a soldier’s tactics to tackle a seemingly impossible medical challenge.
That’s why I’ve loved creating ways for diverse people to come together — be it artists, campaigners and thinkers to develop festivals or creative campaigns at European Alternatives or bringing together community organisers, entrepreneurs and policymakers at U Lab or Think & Do.
Diverse teams tackle collective blindspots better. You may find working with people who work in very different sectors or communities refreshing in theory, but we know in practice, it can be challenging too. You need to understand each other’s different professional jargon, adapting to the way we each work and challenging views we take for granted in the organisation or sector you work in as being unanimously agreed by everyone else. Whereas in a diverse group, people will be asking: why do you things like that? why would or wouldn’t we do it this way? why aren’t we using this solution you’ve never heard about?
The Poll Tax or ASBO was developed by relatively homogenous groups of people who couldn’t work out that most people would be respectively worse off as a result of the poll tax or that in the case of the ASBO, deducting money from a teenager’s account wouldn’t work as most didn’t actually have one.
We should of course involve residents in developing policy and designing services, but genuinely involve them in a way they can co-own the process, like being on the team that oversees the commissioning, like being on the Neighbourhood Makers Group of a community hub, youth commissioner at the Young Lambeth Coop or co-steering an advice partnership?
Likewise, immigrants of people who’ve lived in different countries are more likely to be able to innovate because they have been practised in having to adapt to a new environment and have different cultures to call upon in terms of ideas and can better spot patterns.